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Sean Stannard-Stockton
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I like the parable. What if those who own the river rights actually really want to disperse the water into the valley in the best possible way? And what if they have a choice between a number of various dam operators? The conflict you point out with being paid on the height of the water is real. But what if that is the accepted way to charge? Could a new dam operator come on the scene, charge the old way, but disperse the water freely in the best possible way and attract many of those with river rights to use their dam? The best solution would be to meter based on some combination of water flowing in and out. But if those with river rights found that way of metering strange or unacceptable, I wonder if the new dam operator could charge the old way, but disperse the water freely because their more effective dam would attract so many clients with river rights that the height of the dam would be quite large and the volume of water going to the valley would also be large? Maybe that dam operator could even encourage people with river rights whose water was not going to the valley to divert some of their water to the dam (and then on to the the valley) for the first time?
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I love the idea of a discussion thread under each book. The Amazon web app I'm currently using doesn't do that, but I'll look into it. Thanks Phil. -S
Toggle Commented Mar 19, 2009 on Tactical Philanthropy Bookstore at Gift Hub
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I thought Rick's article highlighted an interesting division between a certain kind of free market advocate who thinks that all public good should be supported by private money (or provided by for-profit enterprises) vs. those who advocate for market based principals but recognize the government's legitimate role of "buying social good" on behalf of citizens. As you note in a later post, government contracts are a huge source of revenue for many nonprofits. This isn't "pork", it is the government deciding to work with service providers rather than provide direct services. And this of course, is exactly what many free market advocates want. Rick's article doesn't seem like a "scandal" to me (although he thinks it is). It seems to just be recognizing the fact that the government is a major customer for nonprofits. There's only a small set of people who believe that the government shouldn't be in the business of supplying social good (while of course there is much debate over how much social good they should be called on to provide). What did you think of Rick's column?
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You are very wise, my friend!
Toggle Commented Feb 18, 2009 on Old, you Say? at Gift Hub
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Thanks Phil. May I ask why you thought it was "one of the best posts"? If you found it convincing, I'd certainly like to understand why.
Toggle Commented Feb 9, 2009 on Philanthropic Capital Markets at Gift Hub
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Thanks Phil. Your writing has regularly helped prevent me from taking some of my ideas to their logical/market driven/capitalistic extremes. I think that having been raised by a sociologist and a psychologist and being married to an art therapist, I have a different take on business and markets than many business people do. It is my job not yours or anyone else's to use language that frames my thinking accurately. When I talk about markets and business I speak of them in aspirational terms, not what they are today. I think of them as biological systems that are neither good nor bad. They may get sick, they may encroach on the habitat of others. But at the end of the day, disliking them is like disliking the oceans or the weather. But when I speak of markets, a whole lot of political/personal frames fall in place around me. That's my own doing. I'm not sure I'm a good enough writer to effectively cast off those scales while still making my point. Thanks for helping me think through it.
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I understand the importance of language. Whether you call something an "estate tax" or a "death tax" reveals important things about you as well as changes the terms of debate. However, I think your argument rests on the idea that the language of business is a loaded language designed to accomplish certain goals. For me, the language I use is passion filled and mission drive. It is not a stale, formal, textbook "business speak". I think my readers (and people who resonate with my mission and goals) literally feel my passion and joy about philanthropy flowing off their screens. When I read your writing, the language you use puts me off. It seems designed often to mock those that don't share your literary interests. But for me, while the language you use often confuses me, I don't demand that you use a different way of speaking. Doing so would prevent you from making your most important points just as someone who might be fluent in a foreign language still must use their native tongue to explain their highest callings. Your questions are good ones. But I think I've spent 2 and half years describing on my blog the kind of person I want to be and the world I want. But as you know, I generally speak in terms of tactics. But underlying those tactics is the universal search for meaning that I think drives philanthropy and I know drives my philanthropy. Anyway, my point in all of this is that I think the quote in your post is flawed. The idea that an "investor mindset" ignores "mutual accountability" and "interconnectedness" is just wrong. As someone with an "investor" mindset I wrote a whole essay on consilience in philanthropy and I've discussed a latticework approach to investing as described in the book Investing: The Last Liberal Art. I think you are hearing my words and putting me into a frame that is familiar to you instead of trying to understand what I'm all about.
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So I understand your point if you are examining the way many "social venture types" are. But I don't think this is inherent to "an investor approach". The argument that "the way some social venture types approach philanthropy ignores..." might be valid. But is this a function of the "investor" model? In the for-profit world, start up ventures that have yet to prove themselves are surrounded by investors who tell them what to do. But those that have proven themselves often find the power structure reverses so that investors compete to get in on the best deals and or for access to management. I think this is an important question because if the current implementation of the "investor model" is being done wrong, it can be corrected. But if the model is flawed, we should reject it.
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Why do you think "An investor approach ignores the interconnectedness of so much of the community-change work and changes the dynamic of the level of mutual accountability"?
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I'm seriously going to have to consider retaking the CAP exam. I would have loved to have found this sort of intro when I got started with the study. Recently, I've been thinking about what the core ideas are that separate people when it comes to philanthropy. For instance, why is it that Bill Schambra and Bill Somerville are on the same side of the table when they debate Paul Brest? What are the key beliefs that cut to the core of how we think about philanthropy? One of the candidates for a core belief is the idea of whether philanthropy is something that is "owed" back to the world. The word "owe" implies you took something or were given something that must be returned. You use the word "owe" in the beginning of the second paragraph and I'd like to point out that many people are beginning to think about philanthropy less as something that is "due" back to society, but rather as something that is given from a position of free will. I'm not asking that you change the language, just that you consider whether the language is a part of your own internal narrative or whether it is an intentionally used word that correctly describes the CAP program's thinking about philanthropy. Good luck Phil!
Toggle Commented Nov 28, 2008 on The Art of Philanthropy, State Of at Gift Hub
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Jeez, I might have to go through the CAP program a second time just to experience the new version!!
Toggle Commented Oct 21, 2008 on Flagged by Sean at Gift Hub
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Only uncouth money managers (of which their are many) lack Beauty, Mirth, and Good Cheer. Warren Buffet for example has all three in spades (read a couple of his annual reports if you don't believe me). Also, note that in the Utopia you link to, no money managers are mentioned, just people coming together to apply sophisticated tools in their mission to fight the good fight. The heart of that story is not the tools, it is the people coming together.
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Phil, what do you think of the Big Give if you step back and think about it as a small part of the grand narrative about philanthropy? I'm torn myself. It seems to me, that Oprah has the ability to turn people on to something that is wonderful, but that they do not know much about. So in that sense, it seems that the Big Give is a positive part of the narrative. On the other hand, I can definitely understand the take that the Big Give is framing philanthropy in an unfortunate light and that it in fact is disruptive to the narrative that you and I support. On the other hand (yes I know that is three), I'm aware that when something goes mainstream, the original supporters often dislike the fact that "their" idea is gaining broad support because they felt special by being the only ones "in the know". So maybe the negative take on Big Give is similar to whining Nirvana fans in Seattle who wanted the band for themselves and defined themselves by liking something that most people didn't know about. So when the masses embraced their band, their self-identity was jeopardized and they felt betrayed. I'd love to hear your thoughts along these lines.
Toggle Commented Mar 5, 2008 on Diana Sieger on Big Give at Gift Hub
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Keep in mind that my firm serves major donors, while community foundations' primary mission is to serve the communities where they reside. They do that by serving donors in their community, but at the end of the day they must be guided by what is best for the community. That is a critical role. I'm a big supporter of community foundations. While I might be able to hire away their staff, I can not replace them.
Toggle Commented Feb 19, 2008 on Rolling Community Foundations Up at Gift Hub
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Wow, it is really fun to see this page with the spaceships and lasers...
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I resonates with me. This is an important type of information. I get frustrated when people interpret me as saying I think "metrics" are important when I really think that having more information of all types about nonprofits is the real key. But that misunderstanding is probably due more to my lack of clarity in my writing than anything else!
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In a perfect world I don't see philanthropy as being within any one of those disciplines. Seems to me that we need people from all of those areas and we need them to respect the knowledge of the other fields rather than thinking the the knowledge they have is the most important.
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Metrics miss a lot. Did you catch my On Philanthropy post about Consilience?
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Phil, I'll be commenting on Rich's post on my own blog soon. But without commenting now on stories vs numbers, I'd like to ask a question about your MLK analogy. MLK was the leader of a great movement. Great leaders are a rare and wonderful thing. But the very best great leaders have organizations that are run with great PR and effective tactics. If you wanted to start a movement, wouldn't you want to have a great leader, great stories and a great analytical team figuring out the best tactics to achieve your ends? It seems to me that the nonprofit world has many great leaders. It has some great storytelling. But it has very little effective, analytical teams developing tactics. MLK says in your quote, "let us move on in these days of challenge to make of America what it ought to be." The question for me today is "move on and do what?". If we want to reform education, do we move on and demand more standardized tests? move on and create more charter schools? move on and provide a loving environment for children where their human needs are addressed with the assumption that humans who are cared for will learn naturally because children love to learn?
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Phil, this was such a fun post to read! I wish I could have been there.
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Shouldn't "morally driven" donors (Personally, I'd argue that all donors are driven my morals) want their giving to do the most good? Otherwise they could just give all of their money anonymously to some randomly picked nonprofit. Wouldn't the kinds of donors you describe feel the most fulfilled by giving to a nonprofit that they "knew" was doing a lot of good instead of a nonprofit that was just saying they were doing good?
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Phil, I really like your advice in this post. I believe that one of the most important things for donors to understand is that the cost of containing/eliminating social problems increases at a faster rate than the returns to financial markets (I believe this to be true, but have been unable to find evidence. Please let me know if anyone can point me to a good study). Highlighting this fact is advice I've given to Anne Ellinger at Bolder Giving (who I mention in the FT column). That being said, I have never run across a donor who wanted to give today all of the money that they will give in their lifetime. There is a good impact maximization argument that says people should do this, but I don't think it fits most people's personalities. They want to stay involved in giving throughout their lifetime. Given all of that, I encourage people to try and figure out what their total lifetime giving will be and (if they can do so without jeopardizing their own financial security), move that total amount into a philanthropic vehicle as described in my column. Doing so does not preclude making a very large direct gift. If I could point to evidence that social problems grow at a faster rate than financial markets, I'd consider writing an FT column about the subject. Thanks for expanding on my thoughts from the column. You've added importantly to what I could discuss with my 800 word count limit.
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Your list is compelling Phil. I have a hard time arguing the other side. I loved Philippe's comments and think he is exactly correct. Except Philippe's comments are about demographic shifts and therefore are an argument for why philanthropic leaders will need to blog... someday. But why should they blog today? I would suggest that 1) philanthropic leaders who are happy with the status quo and their role in it, and who expect to live a public life for less than 10 years probably shouldn't blog. I don't see how it benefits them much. But 2) leaders who want to see change, want to increase their influence or expect to be a player in public life for more than 10 years HAVE to blog (or have another active online presence). JFK's understanding of television helped him beat Nixon. I think we're on the verge of the internet being a true game changer in politics in a similar way. If you want to be an influential leader during the next couple of decades or you want to change the status quo now, I think you have to have an active online presence... Even though all the risks that Phil's list point out are true. Risks always accompany opportunity.
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Mitch, thanks for offering up your blog as a platform. I hope you attract more smart voices like Rich.
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Thanks for the coverage Mitch. I have a pipeline of submitted posts with a lot more promised. Thanks for keeping people informed.
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